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Reviewers Choice Award

Awake in the Desert Land

Sofia Aldinio | Mexico

A cemetery just outside San Jose de Gracia, Baja California, Mexico, January 17th, 2021. The town lost most of its population the past 20 years, forcing the school and all the town services to shut down.

Awake in the Desert Land is an ongoing photography project documenting how climate change is uprooting small, inland and coastal communities in Baja California, Mexico, that depend directly on natural resources to survive and thereby threatening cultural heritage.

The peninsula is facing stronger hurricanes, changes in precipitation patterns and streamflow, loss of vegetation and soils and negative impact on fisheries and biodiversity. It's estimated that in Mexico and Central America, 3.9 million people will be forced to leave their homes due to climate change. Given that Baja California is a cultural borderland between Mexico and the United States, what role does American society play in the migration of the younger generation for better income opportunities? How does that intersect with the impacts of climate change?

Photographed in four different communities across the peninsula, the work aims to document the tension of the communities whose cultural heritage is at risk, add a new perspective on the exciting reports on climate change and migration and start a conversation about how the loss of collective memory has a direct impact on the mental health of the next generation.

Sofia Aldinio is an Argentine-American documentary photographer and storyteller. She is currently based between Joshua Tree and Baja California, Mexico, to work and live closely with the latino community. Born in Argentina and being a migrant, has deeply influenced her way of thinking and seeing. 

A large part of Sofia's documentary work focuses on amplifying stories of immigrants and refugees arriving in the Northeast of the United States. She was awarded a grant through the Maine Art Commission to complete a project about refugees and the most precious object they carried with them in order to create a traveling exhibition throughout the state of Maine educating communities about their stories through their lens. For this project, she engaged with local business, the community, the city of Portland and non-profits.

Sofia is currently working on a project about how climate change is threatening traditions and ways of life in small communities living in Baja California that depend directly on natural resources to survive. 

While studying economy and photography in college, Sofia became interested in social justice and how climate can shape someone's identity. "My creative process is a combination of pure journalism and artistic poetry. While I love making photos, I also enjoy the process of working with objects and archival materials”

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